I am a part-time art critic. In this capacity I have mastered the art of the short review, which form is at once a challenge, an insult, a record, and a piece of advertising. It pays very little, but it affords the writer the opportunity to think pointedly about a predetermined body of work, put those opinionated thoughts into carefully selected phrases, and have them dispersed throughout the art network. Does anyone bother to read them? Probably not, with the exception of the artist in question, their gallerist, family, and friends, and a handful of other readers.The purpose of the short review is debatable and arguably quite different for the various parties involved: the writer gets a tear sheet, $70 (if that), and some editorial gratification; the reader, in the best-case scenario, gets a succinct, opinionated description of a body of work they probably did not see in person; and the artist gets published recognition and an entry for their bibliography.
But think for a moment of the artist who has never been reviewed. Do you need a review to get a show? You need a show to get a review.
The 60 wrd/min art critic provides efficient, on-demand art reviews to artists who would otherwise go without. Installed in an easily reached public location (e.g., museum lobby, institutional project space, bookstore alcove, store window, gallery district sidewalk), the critic works set hours, at a desk furnished with a laptop computer and printer.Artists are invited to submit their work for review between the specified hours. Submissions should include adequate materials, such as reproductions of artwork, an artist statement, and a brief biography. Timebased art is nevertheless welcomed as a challenge. Reviews are ready for pickup at a given hour.
Reviews are free of charge, but are not guaranteed to contain positive responses to the work submitted. Critics, despite what some may think, are not cheerleaders or educators or advertisers; they are opinionated, thoughtful, informed commentators. Or so we try.
10/15/05 12:32 P.M.
FRANTISKA + TIM GILMAN: THE BOOK
Artist couple Frantiska + Tim Gilman reproduce banal reality in sculptural and painterly formats, via divergent means but to similar effect.While their oil-on-canvas paintings take a photorealist approach, darkly copying straight from our mediated, minimalist age, their sculptures make the point from the opposite direction, getting no closer to the real thing but more explicitly so: flat felt cutouts of chair and table shapes lie as inert as their materials insist they should. Meanwhile, the trompe l’oeil paintings hang overhead, offering a more convincing dose of the way the world looks, but only if you’re willing to ante up the suspension of disbelief demanded by such paintings.
10/15 12:51 P.M.
MARIE-CHRISTINE KATZ + DAVID ABIR: SPINNING MY WEB
New York–based artist Marie-Christine Katz mapped her movements for one year and wove them into this suspended metal wire web, macramé for the digital set. The floating net entangles bits of glass within its fibers, crystals meant to mark important points upon the year’s journey, though they remain entirely abstract to the viewer, who sees them but as colorless glints, allusions perhaps to a path more spiritual than physical, a desire to catch something far more elusive than a taxi cab.An accompanying sound piece made in collaboration with David Abir melds Katz’s voice with other noises, again evoking not an urban wandering but something more ethereal and immaterially searching. 10/15 14:08 P.M. TIM MCPHEE Combining vintage black-and-white imagery with tartly overlayed color forms, Tim McPhee constructs charming illustrations that bespeak a familiar desire for retro looks and modernist fashions. Photos of apples, mustachioed men, ladies in shirtwaist dresses, Victorian 30 Illustration by Tony Millionaire 16789_blvr41_text.qxd 1/4/07 3:23 PM Page 30 streetlamps, a nifty automobile, and slingback chairs are sampled and counterpointed by a pleasing geometric palette of solid turquoise, kelly green, sunshine yellow, and other suitable shades. Echoes of John Baldessari are quietly muffled; McPhee’s tastefulness admits none of that old bad boy’s coy critique.The latter’s silk-screened layers don’t signal information blocked or questioned, but rather style added. 10/15 14:31 P.M. DONELLE ESTEY To get from deer to bears to female bodies, a process one might call sympathetic metamorphosis needs be employed. And such is the transformation that takes place in Donelle Estey’s gentle ink-and-watercolor drawings, dreamy totemesque musings on the closeness of animals and women and gingerroot and coral. In one bloodred pairing, a caribou head grows from atop a lady’s. In another, faint brown like oxidized blood, a tangle of roots, and abstractly fishy plant forms grow as if antlers from atop a large creature, part bear, part seal, all female. The pictures, taken all together, speak of another world, an Adam-less Eden where curvy forms are not snakelike at all.
10/15 14:54 P.M.
LIZA MCCONNELL: DIORAMA OBSCURA: RIDING FENCES
Treadmills are perhaps the machine of our times: expensive and solitary, they artificially propel the body nowhere but to a state of loss, at least of lost weight. From this generator of negation Liza McConnell has reconstructed something positive and downright wondrous, a machine that actually takes you somewhere while you walk, a place magical and luminous—and real. Hidden inside the bowels of a modified treadmill lives a diorama of a highway; the viewer’s physical exertions turn the treadmill, which turns the bike cranks, which turn the diorama inside the traffic cone, which creates a real-time moving image into which the viewer wanders, body and soul charmed. 10/15 15:47 P.M. JESSICA MEIN Descended from a family of northern Brazilian lacemakers, Jessica Mein substitutes contemporary techniques for those not passed on to her from her foremothers. The endless intricacies of their handmade lace drive Mein’s equally obsessive sculptural objects and drawings, though her materials are decidedly more modern: pencil on Mylar, ink on graph paper, acrylic, glass, and matte medium, even video. Despite the differences in their components and contexts, domestic compulsiveness in the service of cleanliness and order reigns as strongly in Mein’s tidy stacks of carved, used soap and her finely detailed furniture matrices as it does in the most fastidious lace tablecloths and collars.
10/15 16:39 P.M.
JENNY MARKETOU: FLYING SPY POTATOES: MISSION WITH THE RED BALLOON CAM APPARATUS
If in today’s surveillance culture citizens daily acquiesce their rights to privacy and to act suspicious, perhaps it’s high time to have a little fun with the spies. Jenny Marketou invokes the ’80s pop song “99 Red Balloons” and nineteenth-century reconnaissance inflatables in this video transmission project, in which willing participants signed out ninety-nine camera-equipped red balloons and floated them around Chelsea. Rather than being unwittingly spied on, viewers offer themselves up as dérivé subjects, their journeys broadcast live back to screens set up in Eyebeam Atelier. Paired with these leisurely strolls are Marketou’s own balloon-recorded travels through heavily watched areas like the World Trade Center site, where no doubt her watching was itself being watched. 10/15/ 17:05 P.M. HANA CISNAROVA If Hana Cisnarova painted portraits not with oil on canvas but with camera on photo paper, her coloristic experiments might be easily chalked up to fun time with the color printer. Yet the saturated, burning 31 16789_blvr41_text.qxd 1/4/07 3:23 PM Page 31 magenta, wicked yellow, fiery orange, and searing turquoise that fill the frames and the people of her canvases are put there deliberately by her pop-sympathetic brush, a flat, charged hand that in its propensity to treat the same figures with different colors recalls Warhol’s silk screen portraits of celebrities.The identities of Cisnarova’s subjects varies, though pictures of the artist as young girl likely derive from old school photos. Hung in multiple, the portraits form dynamic groupings, colorful cliques alive in their clashing and complementing.
10/15 17:32 P.M.
YULIYA LANINA: LIBERATION
An ambitious work of sculpture on paper, Yuliya Lanina’s Liberation stretches larger than life-size, taller than a beautiful woman with outstretched arms—which it depicts, in proudly nude, young flesh. A hodgepodge of materials and symbols, part hippie, part new age, part sun goddess and misplaced ’70s feminist vibes, Liberation encases her attractive brown flesh in a plaster cast, golden wings painted open, butterflies with great big eyes and great long human tails afloat around her. If her golden halo marks her as otherworldly, her sketchy cocoon grounds her back down on mother earth.
10/16 12:23 P.M.
Surrealist photographers often made use of found layering, capturing mannequins and merchandise in urban shop windows whose glass retained secondary images of the surrounding city and passer by. Eckhard Etzold updates this process and takes it further in the direction of self-conscious representation, painting meticulously illusionistic images of what he calls “time-space capsules”: art-and-science museum vitrines, but also store windows featuring plastic models wearing the latest fashions. His large-scale reproductions add yet another remove to the levels of reality on display, this time the painterly one of acrylic on cotton. But if his choice of photorealist style seems to fall back on itself, hewing too closely to what we already think things look like, Etzold puts his own practice on the line in works like Skull II, where a pristine depiction of a display case bears a sweeping brush stroke right across the middle of the picture plane—a finely painted reproduction of a brush stroke at that.
10/16 12:43 P.M.
Cross a young Francis Bacon with an even younger Neil Gaiman, plus a heaping dose of light anime, and out comes a sketchbook like John Walsh’s. Deft, dark jokes on dieting in the form of a sandwich with stapled crust and a locked-down burger give way to fine pencil studies revealing, in one quirky instance, a trouser leg and shoe, the foot inside revealed through short, sharp, and articulate lines. A mixed-media two-page plan for a large work features an as-yet-unclear story line involving a flooded house, monsters, and a king, but gets bogged down in sloppy paint washes—the skilled lines of Walsh’s drawing style disappear too quickly under the muck. One hopes His Majesty will come to the rescue.
10/16 13:06 P.M.
Female bodies abound in Kristin Costa’s book of fragmented images and notes to self and others. A pigtailed blond vixen with a lithe body reappears in whole and in part, as does a similarly attractive, big-eyed, raven-haired woman. Pictures of cupcakes and artichokes, a paper chopstick wrapper, and images of a swank county fair draw strange conclusions in a body of work dubbed by the artist as “autobiography through iconography.” Perhaps that explains the absence of male figures.A rare finished work displays Costa’s illustrational style, part velvet cabaret, part cartoon. Subtle clues lurk in the details: barbed hooks hold up starry curtains, a dangling pocket watch has hands of the same length, two playing cards poke out of a girl’s costume hat. Her shadow is the shadow of a dwarf, facing the other way.
This installment of the 60 wrd/min art critic featured Frank Olive as receptionist. The performance was part of PerFORMance over Function, an exhibition curated by Frantiska and Tim Gilman-Sevcik for the DUMBO Arts Festival, October 15 and 16, 2005, 12–6 p.m.